The former executive director of the Asbury ParkHousing Authority pleaded guilty on Tuesday to pilfering more than $90,000 from the organization between 2008 and 2011, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.
Mark W. Holmes, Sr., 56, of Lawrence Township, who is also a former mayor and councilman of that Mercer County town, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by unlawful taking before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge John R. Tassini. He faces five years in New Jersey state prison when he returns for sentencing on April 6.
As part of his plea agreement, Holmes agreed to pay $35,000 in restitution for monies he has not reimbursed the Asbury Park Housing Authority (APHA) and to forfeit his government-funded pension as well as any future public employment in New Jersey.
“Everyone, including public officials, must be held accountable when they break the law. Public service is a privilege and requires a level of trust by our constituents — a trust that Mr. Holmes exploited,” Gramiccioni said.
The case background …
An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that, during his period of employment with the Housing Authority, Holmes stole in more than $90,000 by diverting state grant funds, collecting reimbursements for unauthorized meals, and double-dipping on per diem payments when traveling.
Holmes, a former Lawrence Township mayor and town councilman, was executive director of the Asbury Park Housing Authority (APHA) between December 2008 and June 2011. Prior to assuming that position, Holmes was deputy director of the city-run organization.
Just months before assuming the role as executive director, Holmes applied for and received a $99,897 grant award from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This Literacy Skills Training Grant was intended to provide training in computers and other marketable skills for Asbury Park public housing residents.
Between November 2008 and August 2009, with Holmes serving as executive director, the APHA received more than $75,000 from the State as part of the training grant. Holmes transferred $58,000 of the funds to the APHA Community Development Corporation, an organization he created, and, rather than use the money for training purposes, Holmes used the money to fund a $50,000 salary increase for himself without APHA Board approval.
Holmes also applied for and secured credit cards in the name of the “APHA” and “APHA Community Development Corporation” and used the cards for personal expenses. He changed the mailing addresses for the bills to go directly to his personal residence and racked up more than $30,000 in debt.
While serving as executive director for a two-and-a-half-year period, Holmes went on more than 30 business trips across the country. Prior to these trips, Holmes received more than $22,000 in per diem payments from the APHA which were intended to cover meal expenses while away on business.
Upon his return, even though he had already received these monies, Holmes sought and received duplicate reimbursements from the APHA for meals for which he had already received the up-front per diem payments.
Holmes also used APHA funds for personal expenditures while on these trips, including spa treatments, hotel in-room movies, and gentlemen’s clubs. On at least three occasions, he used APHA funds to pay for stretch limousine service to transport him and his family to and from the airport.
Holmes also used more than $13,000 of APHA funds for unauthorized meal expenses in the Asbury Park and Lawrenceville areas.
— Edited press release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office